How much pay does an AFSPECWAR operator make a month?

Special Warfare pay

Special Warfare Airmen receive pays above and beyond their Air Force peers. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what the monthly income will look like for Active Duty Special Warfare operators at multiple locations and timelines through their career. First, a quick review the basics of Air Force pays and allowances:

In the Air Force all Airmen collect a Base Pay, a subsistence food allowance (called BAS), and a housing allowance. When stationed overseas, Airmen will also collect a special cost of living allowance (COLA). For Special Warfare airmen, there are additional pays as well. We’ll combine all of these to compute a monthly paycheck.

Standard Air Force Pays (pays that all airmen receive)

  • Base Pay: Determined by your Pay Grade (E-4, O-3, etc) and your time in service
  • Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS): Rate adjusted if you are enlisted or officer
  • Housing Allowance: Determined by your duty location, rank, and whether you have dependents (spouse, children), and whether you live in the dormitories. (We will assume no one is living in the dorms for this).
  • COLA: (Overseas only) Determined by the country and location of your duty station

Special Warfare Specific Pays

  • SDAP: (Enlisted Only)Special Duty Assignment Pay. Amount determined by specific career field and length of time in it
  • BASIP: Battlefield Airman Incentive Pay. Lumps your special skills (such as jump pay, dive pay, demo pay, etc) into one bulk payment. Amount determined by your awarded skill level and qualifications.

Enlisted Operator Pay

Enlisted Special Warfare airmen receive two types of special pays: Battlefield Airman Incentive Pay (BASIP) and enlisted-only Special Duty Assignment Pay (SDAP). Pay range is dependent on skill level and qualifications.

We’ll look at 4 different operators (PJ, TACP, CCT & SR) at two different times during their career at various locations;
1) First assignment base as an E-3 (Airman First Class) with 3 years of military service and no dependents (not married, no kids) -and then-
2) E-6 (Technical Sergeant) with 12 years of service with dependents (married)


FIRST DUTY STATION/E-3/3YRS/NO DEPENDENTS

New PJ, at Davis-Monthan AFB (AZ)

  • E-3 Base Pay: $2303
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $981
  • BASIP: $540
  • SDAP: $225
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $4422

New TACP, at Fort Hood (TX)

  • E-3 Base Pay: $2303
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $960
  • BASIP: $150
  • SDAP: $450
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $4236

New Combat Controller, at RAF Mildenhall (UK)

  • E-3 Base Pay: $2303
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $1690
  • COLA: $211
  • BASIP: $525
  • SDAP: $375
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $5477

New Special Recon, at Hurlburt Field (FL)

  • E-3 Base Pay: $2303
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $1371
  • BASIP: $525
  • SDAP: $225
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $4797

Technical Sergeant (E-6) Fully Qualified operator at 12 years with a wife and kid

PJ at Kadena AB, Japan

  • Base Pay: $3995
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $3008
  • COLA: $614
  • BASIP: $615
  • SDAP: $450
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $9055

TACP at Vilseck, Germany

  • Base Pay: $3995
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $2611
  • COLA: $341
  • BASIP: $150
  • SDAP: $450
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $7920

Combat Controller at Cannon AFB, NM

  • Base Pay: $3995
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $1191
  • BASIP: $600
  • SDAP: $450
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $6609

Special Recon at McChord AFB, WA

  • Base Pay: $3995
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $373
  • Housing Allowance: $2217
  • BASIP: $600
  • SDAP: $525
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $7710


Officer Operator Pay

Officer Special Warfare airmen receive one type of special pay: Battlefield Airman Incentive Pay (BASIP). Pay range is dependent on skill level and qualifications.

We’ll look at 3 different operators (STO, CRO & TACPO) at two times during their career at various locations.;
1) First assignment base as an O-2 (1st Lieutenant) with 3 years of military service and no dependents (not married, no kids) -and then-
2) O-4 (Major) with 12 years of service with dependents (married)

FIRST DUTY STATION/O-2/3YRS/NO DEPENDENTS

New STO/CRO at Hurlburt Field, FL

  • O-2 Base Pay: $4968
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $257
  • Housing Allowance: $1551
  • BASIP: $525/STO, $540/CRO
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $7301 (STO)/$7316 (CRO)

New TACPO at Fort Hood, TX

  • O-2 Base Pay: $4968
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $257
  • Housing Allowance: $1167
  • BASIP: $150
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $6542

Major (O-4) Fully Qualified operator at 12 years with a wife and kid

CRO/STO at Kadena AB, Japan

  • O-4 Base Pay: $7832
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $257
  • Housing Allowance: $3288
  • COLA: $833
  • BASIP: $600/STO, $615/CRO
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $12810 (STO)/$12825(CRO)

TACPO at Fort Carson, CO

  • O-4 Base Pay: $7832
  • Food Allowance (BAS): $257
  • Housing Allowance: $2133
  • BASIP: $150
  • TOTAL Pre-Tax MONTHLY PAY: $10372

Caveats

  • The pays calculations above are based off year 2020 calculations and do not include any special pays for deployments (hostile fire pay & tax free), re-enlistment/retention bonuses or the annual uniform stipend. The above numbers are pre-tax. Expect deductions of Federal Taxes, Social Security and Medicare. Housing allowance, Food allowance and COLA are tax exempt as they are technically allowances; not pay.
  • Housing allowance is based off of the going rate in the surrounding area. Extra housing allowance that you don’t use may be pocketed stateside, but not pocketed overseas.
  • Enlisted members at their first duty station may have to live in the dormitories based on the wing’s guidance and if space is available.

Observations and Take Home Points

  • Officers make drastically more money than their enlisted counterparts, despite not collecting SDAP. The difference is largely attributed to the base pay (and also housing allowance).
    • Of note, military retirement is calculated using a percentage of the member’s base pay. No special pays are included.
  • Overseas assignments will nearly always provide more income due to the added COLA pay.
  • Pararescue, Combat Control & Special Recon will earn about the same amount, if all other factors were the same (rank, location, skill level, etc). TACP operators will earn less than their other Special Warfare peers due to their low BASIP amount. For more info on special pay amounts, see our Overview Page.
  • Staying in Special Warfare for multiple years will rapidly increase your take home pay, regardless if you are officer or enlisted. (And will provide an added benefit of several re-enlistment/retention bonus opportunities.)

Additional Resources

Military Base Pay, Housing Allowance, BAS and COLA rates are all available on line if you wish to further crunch the numbers. SDAP and BASIP are available with military CAC access on MyPers.

For additional information on pay or other Special Warfare topics, visit our community forums.